Finding the right fit for articling

There are a lot of important things to consider when choosing where to article.

Kristen Slaney

Here we are, on the other side of the holidays and into a new year. While my holidays were joyous, they also involved more work than usual. Over the break, I went to my quaint hometown of Marystown, Newfoundland to prepare for my future move to Hamilton, Ontario, where I have accepted an articling position for the 2019-2020 articling season.


There are a lot of important things to consider when choosing where to article, including the firm’s practice areas and its articling policies and practices. It is also important to consider the location – how many people are there and what amenities are available in the area.

Despite my love of lists when making decisions, there is no way to put on paper the faith it takes to believe in yourself during this difficult process, and no way to describe how to follow your gut feeling when you know you’ve found a good thing. Today, I want to share my experience and the long train-of-thought it took for me to find an articling position that was a great fit for me. 


The decision to move to a new province to start my career was not an easy one. Rewinding back to 1L, I was certain that I wanted to go back home to Newfoundland upon graduating. I am, after all, a true-blue Newfoundlander. I will eat gravy on just about anything. I love traditional music and dancing. When excited or angry, I have a thick east-coast accent that I am fiercely proud of. Back in 1L, I even considered the OCI positions in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, excited to get back to the easy-going eastern shores.


Fast-forward to 2L, when Toronto OCI interviews came around. At this point, I did not know what I wanted to practice in the future, but had an idea of what I did not want to practice. Knowing that much was a great start. I interviewed at a few places in Toronto, and while all firms were excellent and of high reputation, I could not find a good fit for me. Toronto was too big and bustling for someone who grew up in small-town Newfoundland. The subway was dizzying and the hustle and bustle of the downtown did not excite me – rather, I found it exhausting.


I spent my 2L year considering what was important for me in a job, what would be a make-or-break characteristic of a job offer and where I could see myself in 10 years. This lead me to many visits to career services (which Windsor Law does exceptionally well) and lots of soul-searching. With each subsequent application I sent out, and with each rejection, I felt saddened but more resilient and determined.


If I were tough enough to move half-way across the country to do the Dual JD program, I could be tough enough to face anything that came along with the legal job hunt.


In February of 2L, I was in Florida with my aunt and cousin, soaking up some sun and enjoying family time – something I got little of since leaving Newfoundland – when I received an email that articling applications for Windsor and Hamilton were due on May 4. This sent me into a panic, as I wasn’t finished exams until May 10 in my American school (in the Dual JD program, I take exams at both University of Windsor, and University of Detroit Mercy School of Law).


But I managed to finish my applications and start interviews during my final exam period. This is when I truly learned what it means to be a good fit, to click with the culture of a particular firm. One interview I landed was at an incredible firm but one that was just not for me. It was during an interview in Hamilton that I found my articling position. The firm is a full-service firm (which was ideal), the people were very upfront with the process and I had great conversation with the partners and associates. At the end of the interview, I walked away with excitement at the prospects of working at that firm.


The next evening at the Hamilton articling reception, my enthusiasm for the firm was confirmed when I met with other partners and associates, and had natural, flowing conversation. I felt that I had lots to learn from the other lawyers, I knew they were hardworking and intelligent, but I felt a great flow and vibe of personalities. Simply put, things just clicked. A few days later, on call day, I got an offer from this firm and accepted on the spot.


I am telling this story for a few reasons. First, it is important to find an articling position that works for you. Second, it is a transitional time, where people are at the end of their schooling and getting ready to start their legal careers and things are not always clear cut. Third, there are people like me who love their homes, but will not be returning to practice there. For me, this is with good reason, as I have fallen in love with Ontario and my home no longer provides me the opportunities that I feel I need for personal growth and achievement. It is never easy to hit a crossroads in life, but it will always be worth it to follow your dreams and find a career you will love, in a place that will eventually become your home.


At the end of the day, law school is not easy, nor is finding a job. It has been with the help of my friends, with being familiar and confident with my wants and needs and in working hard that I can say that I am excited and proud that I am about to finish my last semester of law school. I am even more excited to start articling and my new Ontario life, while bringing along some of my Newfoundland culture and tradition.


To those of you still looking for a position, or are not yet at that stage, remember to consider the logistics, but also consider what you will need and want from a workplace and you too will make a decision that works for you.


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